California’s years-long severe drought continues to drain the state’s potable water resources despite increasingly severe conservation attempts. In April 2014, California’s Governor Brown issued an executive order directing the State Water Resources Control Board to reduce consumption by 25% compared to 2013 levels. In response, consumption in Rancho Santa Fe rose 9%. There are rumors that some residents of the community, located within the San Diego metropolitan area, deliberately used more water to develop a higher usage baseline before mandatory rationing. Due to Californian’s insufficient response, California’s government tightened the screws, effective July 1, 2015.
According to the new provisions:
– Each water district has required water usage targets. Rancho Santa Fe, for example, must cut its usage by 36%;
– Each household is assigned an essential allotment for basic indoor needs;
– Outdoor usage for lawn watering, swimming pools, etc. must be cut nearly in half;
– Exceeding the allotment means financial penalties, possibly tripling water bills;
– If financial penalties do not deter excessive usage, the water district may install flow restrictors on the offender;
– If financial penalties and flow restrictors do not deter excessive usage, the water district can shut off the water to that offender.
Rancho Santa Fe is certainly not the only community to disregard the drought measures but it is notable due to some residents’ outspoken opposition to the conservation measures. According to some residents of Rancho Santa Fe, where the annual median income is roughly $189,000, “We’re not all equal when it comes to water.” The argument goes that if someone can pay for the water, he/she should have it for whatever reason he/she wishes: watering lawns, washing cars, etc., and that imposing limits on these people is “drought shaming.”
At least one problem with the “free market” argument is that water is a natural resource that is crucial to life and is in critically short supply in California. California is literally running out of potable water for its nearly 39 million residents. Water’s essential nature is at least one reason it is not governed by the free market; rather it is provided by government-sponsored utilities with regulations for price and usage.
A possible solution for relatively wealthy people is to have water trucked in from areas that do not have a drought issue. Another solution would be to pay for private desalinization. Both solutions are mighty expensive. Nevertheless, a person who insists on the “free market” argument is perfectly free to pay for all the water he/she wants from sources other than California.
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